Funding debate ongoing between Sebastian County officials

story by Ryan Saylor
rsaylor@thecitywire.com

The fight between Sebastian County Judge David Hudson and County Treasurer Judith Miller over financial software to be used in her office continues following a vote of the Quorum Court on Nov. 26 that would force Miller to allocate $115,000 to the county's information technology department to maintain software she said is not used by her office.

It is a disagreement first made public in April when Miller went to the Quorum Court with the dispute between her and Hudson.

At issue is more than $500,000 spent on a financial software system from a company known as New World, which was supposed to provide a single system between the judge's office, which also houses the comptroller's office, and the treasurer's office's financial systems.

After 16 months of meetings and consultation with the company, Miller said she has not received a working system and decided to pursue other options.

"Now 16 months later, I have nothing in the treasurer's office whatsoever," she said at the time. "And I decided that I'm done. To me they're in breach of contract."

She told the Quorum Court that Hudson would not sign a contract which would have entitled her to use with an Arkansas-based company known as Financial Intelligence, which would have cost the county only $700 per month. But after getting the go-ahead from the Court in April, FI pulled out of the project in June, citing "the unique circumstances facing Sebastian County. We viewed the way things showed today as simply too much risk at this time," wrote FI President Robert Baird.

At the time, Miller said the IT department's hostility to FI caused the company to abandon the project, though Hudson viewed the separation differently.

"I've spoke to the president of the company and I think there's been some misunderstandings, but I don't think that he was comfortable coming in when there was already a company here and it makes things more complex, so I don't think he was comfortable with that,” Hudson explained.

In a memo to the Court on Nov. 26, Hudson said the decision to use the same New World system was made in October 2011 and presented to the Court at that time, which is part of the reason he believed she should provide funding of $115,000 to the county's IT department.

"The key official to make this project financially feasible was the County Treasurer," he wrote. "This system was funded by the Quorum Court and contracts were signed and two new positions were hired in IT. Implementation began in 2012 and continues at this time for finance, law enforcement and courts. We anticipate completion of all three systems in 2014."

Hudson detailed services he said the IT department provides the county treasurer's office, including e-mail, hardware and network support, software known as iSeries and the new .Net System, though he said neither of the latter two systems is being actively utilized at the present time.

In an interview Monday (Dec. 2), Miller said the funding was taken from the Treasurer's Commission Fund and should not be used to prop up the county's IT department.

"For me, it's not paying for nothing. I'm not getting nothing from them. I don't want to pay for services I'm not receiving."

Miller has also discussed the issue with consultant Eddie Jones, a former Randolph County treasurer. He said in an e-mail to Miller that the only legal way to transfer treasurer's funds to the IT department "would be if the IT Department provided some level of service for the Treasurer's office," which Miller again said she has not received from the department.

As for what happens next, Miller is keeping quiet.

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"I don't want this out there for David (Hudson) to know," she said. "I don't want him to know what I'm getting ready to do next. But I haven't given up."

Hudson said he hoped to find agreement with Miller and move forward.

"I'm certainly not in a dispute with the treasurer," he said. "I will continue to work as a partner in a cooperative fashion because I think that's what people that voted for us expected us to do."

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Comments

County Email

The county email system used by seb. co. is a joke. It is such a process just to get logged in that hardly anyone uses it.

County Web-Site

Maybe the county is using the same Web-Site contractor as the Affordable Health Care group and we don't need to mention the county water park debacle where it was said that they are spending 2.5 million extra taxpayer dollars to get less construction than a local contractor would provide.

Judging the Judge

we have the County Web-site fiasco and we also have the Flintco project where he is spending an extra 2.5 million taxpayers dollars to get a whole lot less water park for the citizens so could it get any worse? Yes it could because this is the same person that offered to lend the City of Fort Smith over 4 million dollars of taxpayer money that he thought he had but found out later that the money was gone! Now he is in a squabble with the County Treasurer over spending issues and his track record as a steward of taxpayer money does not put him in a favorable position. does anyone else wonder if all the lights are on in his office?

County JP's

Just ask any Quorum Court JP what they really think about the managing ability of the County Judge and then you can judge the Judge on his ability to handle taxpayer money.

Chicken House

Most Chicken Houses don't have a Water Park that is costing the taxpayers 2.5 million dollars more than necessary and the chickens that lay their eggs don't have a web-site that is the laughing stock of county government. The wolves are having a convention and gathering to feast on the spoils of waste.